Interview sponsored* by Amberjack Publishing
The Children’s Book Review | July 19, 2016
The Children’s Book Review: What is the main message of the book?
Phyllis Perry: Young people can empower themselves to make a positive difference in their community but it requires courage and perseverance. To be effective, even young citizens must gather facts, work through channels, and encourage like- minded people to join with them.
Were you consciously trying to write a story that underscores girls as leaders and scientifically astute citizens?
I was trying to write a strong and compelling story. The main characters, Jeannie and Mary Jo, naturally took their places as leaders with writing and photography skills that aided their cause of putting an alternative to the potential extermination of the prairie dog colony in front of the citizens of their town. They are not only idealistic, but knowledgeable about environmental issues and, most importantly, are willing to work hard as advocates.
Why prairie dogs? Is there something special about the animal to you?
I live in Boulder County, Colorado and there is a large colony of prairie dogs not far from my home. I’ve enjoyed walking there to watch them. They are a keystone species and have a remarkable communication system. A local wood-carver creates carvings of various Colorado native animals. A friend gave me a life-sized carving of a prairie dog. It sits proudly on a shelf in my study.
Was the conflict in the story based on a specific event?
Prairie dogs have often been in the news here in Boulder, Colorado. There is a good deal of fact in this fiction story. As the community has grown, various groups have argued that rather than extermination of colonies of prairie dogs, we should seek re-location as a possible solution. Others feel that the prairie dogs are simply a nuisance. There are definitely two camps.
How do you think young readers will respond to the complexities of protecting the environment and allowing for economic development?
I think young readers will see that it’s not a matter of building a mall and killing prairie dogs or not building a mall and saving the prairie dogs, but there can be a win-win solution. If the prairie dogs can be re-located, the mall can be built on the site that is best for it. Workers can have jobs. People can have a place to shop, and the prairie dogs can live happily elsewhere. But creating a win-win solution may take longer and involve more work than an extermination. The girls must convince others that it is worth the time and effort.
Can you tell us something about the way the project unfolded, from conception to completion?
As a writer of books for young people, I watched the actual issue of prairie dog extermination or re-location that was in the news in Boulder, and thought it was a great topic for a book. I began drafting the story and took it to my critique group for comments and suggestions. After submitting it to Amberjack, I worked with an editor who was not only very knowledgeable about editing books, but who knew a lot about prairie dogs. She suggested changes and encouraged me to do some rewriting to expand the environmental factors. With her guidance, the story grew stronger.
Are there plans to publish another book that continues the adventures of the girls?
Not at this time.
Are there other books with similar themes that inspired your writing?
Another writer in my critique group is writing a young adult book involving poachers of wildlife, and her attention to detail and setting inspire my own writing.
What other projects are you engaged with at the moment?
The book I am currently working on, JUST ME AND BONES, is also set in Boulder, Colorado. It involves two blended families. A boy and his dog from one family have issues with a girl and her cat from the other family. Again, it is based on fact. Boulder wildlife, this time a cougar, comes into a neighborhood and attacks a pet. So the theme of growth and development coming up against the habitat of wildlife is central to the story.
Written by Phyllis Perry
Illustration by Agnieszka Grochalska
Publisher’s Synopsis: When seventh grader Jeannie learns that Keelor Construction plans to exterminate two prairie dog colonies to make way for construction projects, she takes immediate action. From taking part in a protest, to organizing a petition drive, to speaking before city council, Jeannie fights to save the threatened animals. She manages to balance this activism with her schoolwork and auditioning for the school talent show with her best friend, Mary Jo. With support from her friends, schoolmates, family, and other adults, Jeannie learns the power of people acting together, and that anyone can make a difference if they decide to act.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Amberjack Publishing | 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0997237757
Add this book to your collection: Stand Up and Whistle
“Stand Up and Whistle is an intelligently written work that young readers will certainly enjoy. It powerfully combines social protest, environmentalism, and some very effective education on ecosystems—especially as it pertains to the often-overlooked role of more modest creatures like prairie dogs.”–The Children’s Book Review
Enter to win a copy of Stand Up and Whistle, written by Phyllis Perry and illustrated by Agnieszka Grochalska.
Five (5) winners receive:
- A copy of Stand Up and Whistle
Age Range: 8-12
Paperback: 164 pages
Giveaway begins July 19, 2016, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends August 19, 2016, at 11:59 P.M. PST. Enter here »
About the Author
As a teacher in California, New Jersey, and Colorado, Phyllis J. Perry was always looking for the best, most interesting books she could find for her students. Not always successful in finding exactly what she wanted, she promised herself that one day she would write to fill that void. Retired and writing full-time now, she has published more than eighty books for children and adults.
Many of her books have been about animals. She has written about training rescue dogs, about poisonous sea creatures off the coast of Australia, about tigers, crocodiles, bats and even mice. It was only natural that the plight of prairie dogs would catch her attention and result in a book for young readers. Since she lives in Colorado, just a short drive from Rocky Mountain National Park, it is also natural that several of her nonfiction books are about the park and some of the exciting historical figures involved in its creation.
Phyllis loves the theater, not only attending plays in her area, but also acting in roles in local venues. She enjoys sight-seeing trips to National Parks, especially in Alaska. When she isn’t writing, in the theater, or sight-seeing, she can often be found immersed in reading a good British mystery.
The Author Showcase is a place for authors and illustrators to gain visibility for their works. This interview with Phyllis Perry about “Stand Up and Whistle” was sponsored* by Amberjack Publishing. Learn more about marketing books and finding an Author Showcase book marketing plan that is right for you …